When Andrew Davis came to Northwestern, he wanted to find an outlet for his music. After burning his own mix tapes and selling them at campus events, he decided there was no better way than to start his own entertainment company.
“The whole concept was to take all the positives of a street corner hustler, that raw ambition, strip away all the negatives, and merge it with the prestige and polish of a business,” he said.
The result was the Hustle Group, now called HG Entertainment.
HG Entertainment’s three artists, Davis, SESP ’07, and Communication sophomores Rotimi Akinosho and Jordan Looney will release their debut record, “Compilation,” on Friday. The three typically operate on their own and specialize in distinct styles: Akinosho is an R&B singer, Looney an underground rapper and Davis a mainstream rapper focusing on more mature topics. But they recorded the album together “as an introduction to what HG Entertainment has to offer,” Davis said.
The album features solo songs from all three, but also offers collaborative pieces. Davis said he hopes fans who listen to the album’s tracks will help build buzz for the artists’ solo albums.
All of the members of HG Entertainment’s executive board are NU students.
“We’re all kids at NU who aren’t embarrassed about the fact that we’re at NU,” said Communication sophomore Zack Johnson, the group’s marketing vice president. “We’re proud of the fact we’ve all gotten here. We’re proving that the smarter you are, the better your music actually could be.”
Davis said he always wanted to start a promotional group at NU, but didn’t find the talent until he met the other two artists during Fall Quarter last year.
The artists have been recording “Compilation” for more than four months, while the rest of the executive board continuously works on building HG Entertainment’s fan base in Chicago. The artists’ songs have already been featured in some of the city’s clubs.
But they still want to build a home base in Evanston.
“The hip-hop scene isn’t necessarily bad at NU,” Looney said. “Where I grew up everyone listened to hip hop – it wasn’t a race or class thing. Everyone knew what a mixtape was.”
Akinosho, who performed in a music group with the nephew of rapper Jay-Z in high school, said he had to “start from the bottom” at NU in order to build a fan base.
“Coming here was a wake-up call, I knew I had to step up,” he said. “When I was in a circle so close to fame, I took things for granted.”
The artists have been gaining momentum at NU in the last few months, opening for Girl Talk’s sold-out show at NU last quarter, and getting play on WNUR, where Davis and Weinberg sophomore Mena Abebe, one of the company’s disc jockeys, had radio shows. The entertainment company also promotes through Facebook and MySpace pages. HG Entertainment’s Facebook page has more than 300 friends, and Johnson said the page sometimes receives more than 300 song plays a day.
HG Entertainment’s artists have previously performed at Greek events, Battle of the Bands and other parties. For the next few months, the clients plan to work on solo albums and promote “Compilation” on a summer nationwide tour.
As a start-up company, both the artists and executive members share the responsibility of promoting and marketing the artists and their music.
Davis, who works as a consultant in downtown Chicago, travels to Evanston regularly to work with the rest of the label. But many of HG Entertainment’s members live on the same floor in Foster-Walker Complex, which makes the creative process easier, Looney said.
Although the company is working on promoting their music in other cities, Davis said they will never lose sight of their fans at NU regardless of what happens.
“You have to start by being that king of the five blocks around you,” he said. “It’s important that where you are you want to be known and be the person who runs that scene.”